By Florante A. Nicolas, DENR- PENRO Ilocos Norte
Despite a logging ban ordered by President Benigno Aquino III, the Anti- illegal Logging Task Force in Ilocos Norte seized illegal forest products here last Sunday, July 15.
Coming from a tip of a concerned citizen through a text message, DENR- Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Juan P. de los Reyes, Jr., said the Philippine National Police and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)-Laoag City seized P416,298.00 worth of lumber locally known as tanguile and white lauan which belong to dipterocarp species.
According to de los Reyes, ‘the most recent seizure must serve as a caveat,’ citing that the citizen’s awareness towards illegal cutting of logs and transportation of the same without the necessary documents has increased after a series of apprehension through concerned citizen’s report was seen on national television.
Apprehending police officers Jonel Mangapit, Constante Antiporda, and Ronald Carrido said that on or about 11 am, July 15, one of them received a text message coming from a tipster that a truckload of undocumented forest products from Pamplona and Sanchez Mira, Cagayan Valley was heading towards the province of Pangasinan.
The truck bearing the plate number BVJ 433 driven by Filemon Vicente and helper Mark Anthony Nieto, both from Nangalisan, Laoag City was flagged down in front of the Police Assistance Center in Brgy. Barit, Laoag City where 8,325.96 board feet of undocumented tanguile and white lauan was intentionally covered by 2,181.32 board feet of coco lumber.
According to de los Reyes, ‘such transportation and concealment of undocumented forest products is a total defiance to the log ban and a deliberate act of treachery to law enforcement authorities.’
“Apart from being liable to answer criminal charges, the acts of the transporter including the registered owner and the consignee of the confiscated lumbers has clearly violated President Benigno Aquino III’s Executive Order No. 23 (E.O. 23) otherwise known as the declaration of national moratorium on logging in natural and residual forests,” de los Reyes said.
Section 2 of EO 23 provides for “a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests of the entire country is hereby declared unless lifted after the effectivity of this Executive Order.”
Additionally, de los Reyes said, under the EO, DENR is prohibited from issuing/renewing logging contracts and tree cutting permits and shall review all existing logging agreements and immediately cancel those that have violated forest laws.
The order also prompted the PNP and the DENR to adopt a one-strike policy, under which area commanders and officers-in-charge will be axed if they fail to stop illegal logging.
Meanwhile, an inquest proceedings has been conducted by the city prosecutor’s office where the driver and helper was held to answer violations under section 68 of Presidential Decree 705, otherwise known as Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
As of press time, truck driver Filemon Vicente and helper Mark Anthony Nieto are behind bars and under the custody of the Laoag City Police pending hearing of the case in court#